Strategic merger for gear supplier

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Wind turbine gear supplier Valmet Power Transmission Inc - a subsidiary of the multi-national Metso Corporation of Finland - merged late last year with industrial gear company Santasalo Oy. The new company is called Santasalo Gears Oy. Valmet has been a major gear supplier to Danish wind firm Vestas.

As a result of the EUR 40 million merger, Valmet gets more production, research and development resources to its wind power gear box manufacturing business, according to Mauri Asunto of Santasalo Gears Oy. The purchased company, Santasalo Oy, has no experience in the wind sector, but has spent 60 years in power transmission. Annual net sales of the gears business are expected to increase to about EUR 120 million.

In the early 1980s, Valmet produced its first 55 kW gear box for commercial use in wind turbines. Since then, the company has made close to 3000 gear boxes for all sizes of turbine, Asunto says, concentrating presently on 660 kW and 1.5 MW units. "Our investments have taken into account that the size of gear boxes will grow in the future, giving us good possibilities for supplying models for offshore wind turbines," he says. In addition to Vestas, Valmet has supplied gear boxes to Danish NEG Micon, Gamesa in Spain and "very few" to the German market.

The wind business is the largest of the five business lines of the gear box company, accounting for about 25% of total turnover. The wind turbine gear box factory is in Jyvaskyla, Finland. About a quarter of the company workforce of 780 will work directly or indirectly on the wind line. The other business lines, with facilities in Europe and North America, include manufacture of mechanical drives for the wood and mineral processing sectors, industrial, planetary and marine gears.

Planetary competition

Santasalo Gears Oy ranks among the world's largest gear unit suppliers. Others include Flender of Germany, which supplies gear boxes to NEG Micon, German Jahnel-Kestermann gear boxes, once used on Nordtank turbines, and Hansen gear boxes from Belgium, which are used on several makes of turbine.

In the last year and a half, both Valmet and Flender have had problems with their gear boxes (Windpower Monthly, May 1999). Valmet and Vestas co-operated on a retrofit of 880 Valmet gear boxes with signs of bearing wear. The DKK 24 million (EUR 3.2 million) program was completed in the autumn. Meanwhile, Flender and NEG Micon have begun a $28 million, two year retrofit and control program for the gear boxes on 1250 NEG Micon turbines.

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